Do you ever wonder how many times you can fail at something before there are no more avenues to try? How many times you can mess the simplest of things up, and still have chances to try and make things right.

Often, increasingly so lately, I feel like I am teetering over the edge. Trapped in a cycle of insanity, I continue attempting to succeed by taking the same path with more detours. Instinctively, I keep thwarting my own life.

Sometimes I feel life would be easier if I could just drag my life to the trash like on a computer.

Everywhere I turn, places and people, I find myself failing to realize expectations or success.

It becomes so tiring to fail, and have people ask what I want from life.

It has become so exhausting, to smile or cry and say I want thing A – but truly, I just know these are things any normal person should want.

I don’t.

All I ever really want is the comforting escape and silence of sleep. Dreamless sleep.

Because even dreams and nightmares are forcing a sensation of failure; waking in the cold sweats of heavy failure of fiction and fantastical kind.

Often I look at my hands, wrists, arms — any expanse of skin really, and wonder what would happen if I just started pulling the layers back.

Slowly. Excruciatingly slowly.

Would I bleed? Or would only a rotting corpse lay beneath?

I feel nothing in the image of peeled skin, thousands upon thousands of flies and maggots crawling from caves of the sweet-foul smells of rotting body hidden beneath.

It doesn’t force the anxiety in me to overwhelm, instead it seems to lure it. The delusion seems seductive almost; an explanation for why I am this way.

Why I look alive but feel anything but. Why I have felt as such for as long as I can remember.

The stinging tie of obligation keep me going; in the lowest of crawls as I endure this ‘life’.

 

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Hitting the Snooze

The hard thing about depression is knowing that everyone who does not have depression is never going to understand you or your actions. No matter how hard they may try.

Depression, as an isolated concept, is something everyone can experience.

Firstly, there is a difference to being depressed and having depression.

Being depressed is reactionary; being depressed is having an emotional and human response to events in your life, and it lasts for a period.

Having depression is when you experience and battle depression always. Sometimes its different experiences or events in life that can cause it, sometimes you are just born with that imbalance.

But having depression is when all sense and logic is invalid. When you deal with someone who has depression, all the logic and rationale in the world is not going to make their actions or thoughts any easier to understand.

Having depression is a life battle.

Taking medication can make it easier; the aid is not a certain defense. Some days the meds will not work – even if we take them everyday at the right time.

All the meds do is try to balance the imbalance. Try to make sense of the paradoxical.

When my therapist and I began considering medication, this was something he tried very hard to make clear to me. Something that I understood, but was in no way prepared for.

Think of your humanity like a graph. You can experience emotions of numeral variety – in ups, downs, and neutrality. Different emotions respond to different stimuli at varying levels.

When you do not have depression, this roller-coaster of emotions – of the good, the bad and the ugly sides of humanity – occurs within a border of sorts. A border of the typical.

When you are depressed – either in being or having – you go beyond the borders.

This brings us to the second nature of depression: depression is not just ‘feeling sad’.

In having depression, I still experience the different emotions; my experience of them however does not fit in the typical sphere.

I can jump between extremes instantaneously, or spend days suspended in deafening apathy. Sometimes weeks.

 

Anhedonia.

Ever heard of that?

It is the core symptom of depression – not, as often understood and portrayed, low moods. People who have depression suffer anhedonia.

It is the inability to experience pleasure from activities typically found enjoyable. It is the inability to experience enjoyable behaviors – the inability, simply, to process rewarding experiences or feelings.

People who have depression are not choosing to wallow in it. We are not trying to be lazy or use it as an excuse; depression is not some brand of honor, and we do not want it to be the nucleus of our lives.

People who have depression cannot control it; but we try to make it livable. And its hard, because no one who has never experienced these things can understand that it is not as simple as getting up and starting the day.

Every morning – every single morning – I wake up disappointed. Because I woke up.

I start everyday with suicidal thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are not necessarily the plans to commit suicide; it can be as simple as waking up every morning wishing you hadn’t.

 

I am 23 years old and I am exhausted. Every day.

Every morning I try to make my bed; so that everyday, even if everything else has gone wrong or I cannot make it through the fog of my depression I did something.

It seems a simple task; to get out of bed, and make it.

But sometimes it takes every fibre of my being to get myself up to do that basic task. That is how unmotivated I am; where I cannot look to future aspirations as a guide to keep going because I can barely get through the five minutes of making a bed.

Sleep is the only escape; dreamless sleep.

Sometimes I can make myself go through the day, hour by hour until I can sleep and I don’t have to fight every second to keep going.

Other days I can’t; so I just stay in bed and I sleep.

Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for a day. Sometimes, I will stay in bed sleeping for days.

I wish I could just get on with it; or that I could make people understand that I am still trying.

I am 23 years old, and for years I have wished I could just stop and welcome eternal sleep.

But tomorrow I will get up. I will try to do the things I know I should do. And I will try to make it look like I want to do those things.

Then, I will have to go to sleep and do it all again the next day.

And each morning, I am going to have to face that first instinctive disappointment when I wake up.

That is having depression. I wish I could tell my parents this; but it isn’t simple. This answer is not simple. And it also isn’t enough.

So instead, I’ll say “its fine“, “not bad” or, can’t complain“. Because its simpler.

And all I really want is just to get to the point where I can sleep again.

A Secret Place

A girl had wandered in search of answers; cheeks hollowed and bones grating heavy footfalls led her to a secret place.

Her shadow her sole companion, her mind a whispered foe.

Her throat burns, pain had ripped through and torn flesh to pieces in agonized cries. Deep tracks lining cheeks, dry tears leaving scars – sand pierces eyes, but the pain is forgotten.

It is felt by a girl long dead, from her ashes a hollowed woman risen.

Desert winds blow in violent storm, a crying whisper an onslaught to broken mind.

Go back. 

But a woman wanders on, led only by heavy feet walking an invisible path sung by ancient choirs.

There is no going back; a girl had died and a home was burnt.

The voices cry on, and she walks still. The sand cuts, and the voices deafen. The heavy weight of dead begins to settle – and a burning oasis slowly swallows. The sand slips through scraps of boot, settling in to bleeding blisters and coarse soars.

The pain is constant, a heavy weight and sullen friend. Withered hands fall to fiery glass, as the dead rest on exhausted bones.

Closer, the secret place lies. And the dead claw  to her, talons digging and cracking remaining mind.

Take us, they plea.

Closing eyes, a woman battles on – she digs her hands and crawl, inches and inches as sheds their weights.

“No” she whispers; this is her journey alone.

“No” she cries, and with weary hands pushes back – sitting on burning knees, she leans back as clawing talons try to keep purchase. Eyes closed, she faces fiery sun.

Weary mind, weary bones, she throws the weight from heavy shoulders, a silent scream piercing angry storms.

The weight falls, and sand fills her mouth.

Coughing.

Choking.

She wanders on.

A secret place, only heavy feet and grating bones know.

Blurry vision, her shadow catches salty rain; falling and falling, it pierces caverns of scarred cheeks.

A girl is gone, a woman rose.

A shadow waits, and holds her close.

Its a weight; a small comfort, a friend in mind. The secret place hidden in such charm.

Blistered palms, biting nails – with angry fists, she beats her shadow. Angry rains fall, scalding hands.

The air around is arid; the rain falls only from a woman weighted.

She beats the shadow; beats the comfort.

Heavy feet, grated bones; they know the way, but shadow is whispering voices – a comfort. A friend.

Kindness.

It has no place, among the lonely isolation of the oasis of secret place.

With a screeching cry, the fiery sun weeps; the sky falls and a woman is no more.

Angry storms divide; a sullen rock sits by dry lagoon.

Fingers of blood and bones dig and pull; the secret place found.

A girl is gone, a woman is no more – but secret place stands, and a living corpse crawls to dry lagoon and burning shade.

Why, a voice – strong and sullen, calm and kind – sings. Why come this way?

It tries to remember; it tries to remember why the blazing desert was a path a girl gone and woman no more had to cross.

Garbled screeches pierce confusion, answers forgotten in journey passed.

It tries to remember what it was. Where it came and why.

It tries to remember before a woman no more, before a girl was gone. It tries to remember when a girl was, and a woman was to come.

It remembers a face – not its own. Kind and gentle, soft and bright. It remembers a sound – a voice! Booming laughter, and gentle biting words.

Rain falls, and lagoon rises – it remembers.

A girl sits, sun too bright and shadow too large; tears fall violent, as a lagoon rises more. From dessert sand trees rise, and grass grows under scarred hands.

The question echoes as memories sing; a girl looks up, at the burning light of the sun – not sun, but standing aside. The moon sits in sky, as stars and clouds interweave where sun grows.

Defiance grows, and the girl screams; “you took her; you took her from me, monster”.

Silence is deafening, and the girl screams once more.

Again and again, the voice remains quiet.

“Give her back” she cries, “give her back to me”.

Simple and quiet, in booming whisper that quakes the land the voice answers: No.

A girl raises fists, and runs to hit; when light blinds and suddenly a secret place is no more.

She sits in muddy grass, staring at stone.

Fingers trace engraved cross; a girl screams for the voice.

A woman calls, “what does it mean, to be a God?”

Silence follows. A woman stands where a girl cries, where stone is cold under noon sun.

No voice answers; only silence. A woman learns.

It means not, to be a God. A God is a tale; a faerie in kind. A woman learns, and she remembers.

She says goodbye to a girl gone, and the memory of a bright face and booming laugh.

Death took her, and a girl; there is no rest here, no peace to find.

Suck a Lemon

The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting

van Gogh

Fuck thisI have had passionate feelings about art for as long as I remember; and maybe I am not as ‘experienced’ in considering it as others – or even academically or professionally certified to do so.

But lets make something clear; art was never meant to be a thing of commercial consumption. Art is the universal language; it is the telling of a story or a pain where words fail.

In this article Jones actually mentions Picasso – albeit, in a means of degrading the expressions of Carrey by trivializing the therapeutic element of art.

Crudely coloured Jesus-like faces, lurish fluorescent portraits, random abstractions and kitshch clay figures – this is a joke. Please, say it’s a joke.”

Lets make something clear, that this article has clearly decided to pretend isn’t a reality; art is not a simple thing.

There is no set structure – an audience or viewer does not get to decide what is art. That is the whole point of all modern art movements.

Art is a point of expression – and Jones, even Picasso thought so! When asked to explain the symbolism in Guernica, Picasso made a very simple, and perhaps enlightening for you, statement:

It isn’t up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them.

Art is a unique language; and everything is up for interpretation. Carrey used art as a therapy; and he chose to share his pain with the world.

Understand something very simple: the assumption that art must be profound, pretty, or fit any structure we try to assign is wrong. Art goes beyond these social limitations; it is the expression of human thought and emotion. Art can be ugly, many artists in history actually attempted to make art so ugly audiences could not look at it.

Art was their statement. 

Just because we disagree with something – maybe, for example, considering a series of artwork ugly or “Crudely coloured Jesus-like faces, lurish fluorescent portraits, random abstractions and kitshch clay figures” – does not entitle us the right to intellectualize the intent or expression of another human being.

You are not that special or important.

Jim Carrey created something; he used the pain within him to create something – not necessarily beautiful, but powerful. And he chose to share that with people because that is the underlying purpose of contemporary art.

It absolutely disgusts me that people are able to use what limited power they have to try and beat someone down. To attempt to trivialize another person.

Who the fuck gave you that right?

Do you know art history I wonder Jones? Even a rudimentary understanding of it would have shamed your conceptual and basic claims.

Start with this: the Impressionist movement (founded by a number of classic artists, perhaps you have heard of them? – van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Degas) was greeted with scorn and ridicule. The movement was insulted by many in similar positions as you; particularly, Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. Critics attempted to insult the movement with this name; ‘it wasn’t art, it was impressions’.

It is now one of the most revered and iconic art forms and periods of history.

Just because the art of Carrey does not meet your conceptual standards does not mean it is not art; despite what belief you seem to have as a critic you do not actually have any authority to decide that someone has ‘failed’ as an artist.

 

The Rachael Philosophy

My aunt was one for simple words; she said what she meant as plainly possible, niceties be damned. You always knew where you stood with her, because she told you. She taught me a lot of things; and sometimes, those lessons were hard to swallow.

She always said that sometimes, when you are telling someone something they need to hear there is no way to be nice about it. Sometimes, there has to be a little pain for a lot of gain.

If I tried to say my aunt was philosophical, she probably would have laughed and told me to stop being an idiot; because ‘she was no philosopher, she was just plain right’.

The other day my uncle, in a post promoting Cancer Survivors Day, mentioned my aunt – specifically, he mentioned what she was telling everyone when she was first diagnosed.

In life everyone is a tourist; we come to this world to enjoy all it offers – to make memories and do good. Don’t be sad for me, I just happen to be leaving earlier than some. Don’t mourn adventures lost; have one.

I set my phone up to notify me when all my family birthdays or special events come up; and this morning, I got the reminder that hers is tomorrow.

Normally, I would give her a call – call her Aunty Rachael because she hated how “aunty” made her sound old, wish her a happy birthday and talk briefly. Then this weekend everyone would probably meet at my grandparents and she would organize a family dinner to celebrate.

But tomorrow, for the first time, no one is going to pick up my call. No one will tell me to ‘fuck off’ when I call her aunty because I knew it pissed her off. No one will call me a smart ass when I tease her.

She was 44. I keep thinking about when I held her hand in the hospital.

I was just holding it, rubbing it with my thumb begging her to stay. It got caught in her wristband, and I was drawn to how clinical that band was.

44 years and 11 months.

I have been working really hard to turn my life around the last few weeks; been eating better, exercising and trying to study more. All the things I did when I was younger, that she kept encouraging and pushing me to get back to.

I wish I had tried harder sooner; that I didn’t just get lost in my head and ignore everyone helping. Instead, I turned it into some warped conspiracy.

They want me to be like this or do this so then they can have some trophythey don’t love me – or like me – they just like the feeling of loving me.

Stupid thoughts, that wasted so much time. But I have to keep moving. Because I don’t know how much time I get; but I do know it is finite.

And I want to spend the rest of my life doing what she wanted me to: being happy.

Its all she wanted, and I fought her so much. My parents, they want the same thing. For them, for her – and even for me, I have to keep going.

I always have seen my mother and my aunt as amazing role models; brilliant, strong, and independent. They both are caring and nurturing, and stubborn as hell. They never let anything hold them back; and my aunt, she just kept going.

So I have taken the philosophy I so often admired in them, so strongly identified in her and my mother, and start applying it to my own life.

One does not strive to be ordinary; it is something we resign ourselves to.

We are all another face in a strangers crowd; but in the relationship we forge and cherish, we all become an important individual. We all stand out; just as they are marked in the sea of faces to us.

Even when they are gone, their presence never leaves the sea of anonymity – they float and flutter, and they sit in the deepest parts of us.

So this post marks the next phase of my life; I am losing weight, I am opening up more with friends and family, I am working at university. Some days are still pretty horrible – and it still can feel like I am drowning in the sensations of anxiety or disoriented in the thick fog of depression – but now its getting easier to go on; its not just about surviving through another day anymore, but now its actually trying to live each and everyday with purpose.

I might not be ready yet, but I will at some point share this blog with my parents. Because its easier to write these things down, post it anonymously, and then gradually discuss points from the posts as I gather the nerve and fortitude.

But until then I thank the few strangers for support I have been rewarded, and am completely indebted to the love and wisdom of my aunt.

Ashes, Stars, and other Fires

There is no shortage of argument or discussion concerning the nature of life and death. Earliest records of philosophy consider the golden questions of humanity: what is the meaning of life and what is death. Religions, a moral code and guide for society, each opinionated and corrupted by institutionalization make many claims and assertions to the meaning of life and death.

Here is one very simple, undeniable thought, all agree on: life, in all its forms, is a fragile thing.

The Japanese consider the fragility and beauty of life to be best described in the metaphor of the Cherry Blossom trees; life is both overwhelmingly beautiful – made so by all the different connections and experiences we derive from it – and tragically short. Blooming season of the Cherry Blossom is powerful, glorious and immersively captivating. Unfortunately, it is also devastatingly and tragically short; like life, a fleeting thing of immense beauty.

Just as in life, some blossom petals fall before the season ends; a fallen blossom or petal like the end of short lives.

Death is nothing short of devastating; there are no words to justifiably encompass the loss we feel when so violently confronted by death.

My aunt died young; my cousins, only just at the crossroads of youth and adulthood have experienced one of the greatest losses life is.

Life is, as the Buddhists claim, suffering. In all its forms. Buddhists however, understand suffering – and consequently life – differently to the majority of social conventions; suffering refers to the unsatisfactorily and painfulness of mundane life. Suffering, really, is the process of spiritual liberation and enlightenment. Life is embodied in the sufferings of the mental, physical and emotional of birth, aging, illness, and dying.

Birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful, association with unloved objects is painful, separation from loved objects is painful, the desire which one does not obtain, is painful too – Buddha

To truly understand Buddhist concept of suffering, you need to consider its doctrines; suffering is a mark of existence, in that it is result of attachment to elements of the temporary and the fragile of life.

It is in these attachments, I find we have purpose in life; transferring life from mundane to fantastical. It nevertheless, leads to intense suffering in the unfortunate reality of mortality and death. Impermanence is after all another characteristic of existence. Death isn’t suffering for the dead; it is a form of perfect freedom regardless of your beliefs. The dead are no longer attached to us, they do not mourn for us.

We mourn them.

Life is suffering. But it is, oddly, in that suffering we experience and witness true beauty and life.

I am an atheist; I reject the idea of deities, souls or heaven – I, specifically, am committed to the absence of believe in the existence of a God or the spiritual. I have no doubts. I wish I did; I wish I believed in something else but I find myself completely unable to.

I wish I had the comfort of belief; but in many ways I am also thankful I do not. I find small comfort in the knowledge my aunt is at rest; she suffers no more in any form.

Strangely, I have always found greatest comfort in the words of Vincent van Gogh regarding death:

Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.

Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.

To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot

As he famously said I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

I have no belief, but I have memories and time. I have regrets, but I also am proud of many aspects of my relationship with my aunt. This is what gets me through the cavern left in her faded warmth.

I see my aunt everywhere; I see her in memories, I see her when I consider her thoughts on subjects, and I have her lectures. I have the attachment of her life still, despite her loss.

A billion stars shine in the night sky every night; whether or not I believe does not change that reality. My aunt died; but I remember her.

And just as stars that shine every night, that will have to be enough.

Grief

Grief is love with no place to go. 

Heavy in your throat and sinking deep into your gut, its all the love left behind by the departed. All the love you had for them left in their fast fading warmth. 

Grief unfortunately is also frank lessons and realisations. 

When grieving, you are faced with the regrets of the imperfect nature of man, of all failings in your life and relations. 

No lies or comforts can comfort the numbing destruction of grief where life collapses. 

The stepping stones of grief are crumbling as you stand; a precarious balance as you try to navigate through it and around the grief of others. 

Grieving reveals a different kind of loneliness; an isolation in a crowd different to depression or anxiety.

Grieving is for the living. Its the turmoil death in the absence of life, where death is the only escape. 

We lose, and they rest. 

All consuming, all I want is sleep. Because nothing else makes sense. 

 Requiescat in Pace

A few days ago, on my birthday, I woke up to the news my aunt was dying. I was on a plane, rushing to see her and hoping to get there in time.

She had stage four bowel cancer, but I still believed we had more time. The whole 14 hour flight I just kept thinking of everything I wanted to to tell her.

How much I love her.

How wonderful she is.

How much I need and rely on her.

I landed, rushed to the hospital, and found a small body in a big hospital bed that sounded like it was sleeping.

It looked like my aunt. It smelled like her, ever so faintly.

But the hand I held, thin and still – it was not her.

She was this amazing, brilliant and bright indominatable force that defied any expectation or rules. She lived how she wanted, and told cancer to get fucked every second she lived.

Every so often meet people in our lives that make us feel special. Make us feel unique and wonderful.

She made you believe it; held you to it. You were never allowed to just let life beat you up, because you had something amazing only you could offer.

So life just had to fuck off out of the way, and leave you to blaze your own trail.

That person wasn’t there. She was gone.

For the next week my family waited through the horrible and foreign process of watching someone dead go through the process of dying.

Its not an experience you ever imagine, not something you ever think you would have to witness or accept: that someone could be dead and dying at the same time.

My aunt was like a second mother; I feel utterly lost without her.

She made a special connection with every person in her life, touched and let herself be touched by everyone.

She had this beautiful energy, and stubborn nature; which she was never afraid or ashamed to share.

She used to tell me off for so many things. Lecture me for everything. I honestly never believed I could do anything she thought me capable of.

I would give anything for another second with her; to have the chance to feel her hold me tight when I hug her close.

Instead I stare at a photo alone.

Thinking of memories faded and warmth gone.

I feel her loss with every fibre of my being; living seems so foreign.

I have always hated seeing myself in photos. Hated having to look at my image and be forced to recognise myself in that body.

Now I only have a handful of photos with her; where she had to bully me to get close and smile for the camera with her.

I know, sometimes, it’s hard for people to see themselves in the mirror or photos; to open themselves up by talking or hugging other people.

But if I can give any advice from my list of regrets?

Talk to everyone you hold dear openly every second – be honest and forge that connection even if its hard and you fight sometimes.

Take those photos, and hug and kiss at any opportunity.

Because when the day that you experience the death of a loved one comes, and it always does, it will never be enough.

No amount will be enough, time will always be stolen and robbed.

So allow yourself the comfort that you always tried to make every second count.

Because she did. And I wish I listened to her more; because now I am left here to stare at lost time ticking by angry and sad at decisions I made.

Live your life with those that matter. Everything else goes on; but love is the only thing that will stick with you.

Words

biting blade of burning resentment punctures flaming red skin of molten death 

stab 

               stab 

stab 

                              stab stab

                 stab

violent reminders of failings past

murderous tantra of pulsing disgust 

                      violent blood gushing

            from metal bites

exotic hate

                                                  fragrant disgust

your words the final blow

                             your biting tone final notes

         of life-songs and grave melodies

Uphill Battles

There’s always gonna be another mountain

I’m always gonna wanna make it move

Always gonna be a uphill battle

Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Miley Cyrus had it right.

Life will always be an uphill battle; what defines the person really, is how strong they can be and if they can keep pushing on.

It’s hard though when it seems that every summit climbed crumbles, pulling you down in its avalanche of struggle and pain as the mountain seems to climb higher and higher into the sky as your troubles pile on.

The thing is, I don’t think I can keep starting the climb; it’s getting so exhausting to start up, again and again, every day in a world where society is constantly clawing its gnarly fingers down your throat to scrape every last bit of ‘you’ out and throw it to the wasteland at your feet.

I have never been a huge fan of Miley – in the sense that I stalk her twitter or anything I mean, I enjoy a few of her songs whenever the radio introduces me to them with the news she has a new album out. I find she gets a lot of shit though. Which is really unfortunate, considering so many of her songs are about powering through the hard times and being happy with who you are.

Which isn’t really the point I am trying to make here, but it does feel relevant to me.

My point is this: depression, and the anxiety that shadows its cruel dives, is this impossible battle I have to face daily.

It’s an ever-changing, always evolving enemy that lives inside me; my every thought – conscious and nocturnal – tainted by its poison.

And it is a struggle that I have to face with the constant opinions, thoughts and bullshit of society drowning the remaining remnants of my sanity.

Today, like most days, I feel like the world is full of assholes.

Just like any rule though, there are some exceptions; maybe you’re one?